Clare Barclay

Organisation: 
Stream: 
Social Science
Sector: 
Policy/Research
Location: 
Canberra
Round: 
Summer 2013

As a graduate of a four year social science degree, at times aptly referred to as a glorified Arts degree, I recognised a distinct divide between my glossy new academic qualifications and my level of experience and professional skills. There was certainly something lacking in the way of evidence that I was capable of tackling a policy, management, research or otherwise role in the majority of organisations I had hoped to work for. It felt like bullet proof (or in this case resume proof) glass stood between me and my potential employers. In such instances, this is where an internship comes into the fold, providing one with the chance to develop some professional skills within the workplace and assist an organisation with limited resources simultaneously. There are a large plethora of internships available, the majority of which are office or administration based and which require individuals to work unpaid for several months. There is nothing wrong with this, but there is a distinct difference between this kind of internship and the Aurora kind.

The Aurora Native Title Internship Program is different in that it is motivated by the inherent aim of connecting students and/or graduates with native title, Aboriginal affairs, human rights or social justice organisations. Individuals with the right skills set and motivations are offered the opportunity to engage with a community of people dedicated within their field of work to contributing to a more inclusive Australian society. For me this meant a placement at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), based at the ANU in Canberra. CAEPR undertake policy related research on Indigenous groups in Australia and abroad, as well as socio-economic research relative to Australian society. They work in conjunction with the Commonwealth government, providing policy advice and direction based on research outcomes.

As an intern at CAEPR I was not simply required to assist a number of staff members with shorter tasks but instead worked exclusively with my supervisor and collaborated on a small series of longer term projects. I collaborated on a research paper and contributed my own quantitative analysis, as well as trying my hand at the old research staple- the literature review. I was also given the opportunity to lay claim to, under guidance from my supervisor, my own piece of socio-economic research (albeit a significantly small piece on the grander scheme of ‘researchy’ things). For me this kind of experience equated to a more rounded and pragmatic understanding of the research environment and gave me the opportunity to put my name to something tangible at the end of the six weeks. Overall, where I would have been happy serving coffee at Friday morning teas and drafting basic correspondence, I was offered my own reign over projects and a real taste for policy related research… even if what I achieved in those six weeks would have been knocked off my supervisor’s ‘To Do’ list before the coffee had hit the bottom of the cup.

Also important to note is that while at CAEPR, I was treated as a member of the staff rather than an outsider; a level of respect I felt undeserved but was undoubtedly appreciated, and I considered indicative of the reputation Aurora has built for itself through its internship program. The Aurora Placements team consistently emulated the foundation of support and guidance the project is built upon, and not once did they falter in their self-proclaimed responsibility to the safety and satisfaction of their interns. Overall the program did exactly what an internship is meant to, only with much greater success and supervision than I have seen anywhere else. I consider it an invaluable experience, and one all students should in the very least consider when reaching their third or fourth year of study.

With all this in mind, you can (and should) apply for the summer 2013/14 round of internships between 29 July and 23 August 2013 or for more information on The Aurora Project and the Internship Program please visit their website at www.auroraproject.com.au. For further information about CAEPR and the work that they do, you may contact Dr Nicholas Biddle on nicholas.biddle@anu.edu.au.